Unipol has several offers for assets it must sell

MILAN Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:40pm EST

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italian insurer Unipol (UNPI.MI) has received a series of offers for assets it needs to sell to meet conditions laid down by the competition regulator for clearance of a merger with peer Fondiaria-SAI.

"Our adviser has received various formal and informal manifestations of interest," Unipol Chief Executive Carlo Cimbri told analysts on a conference call on Wednesday.

Press reports have said French group AXA SA (AXAF.PA), German insurer Allianz SE (ALVG.DE) and Switzerland's Zurich Insurance Group (ZURN.VX) are among those interested in the assets.

Axa wants to grow in Italy, an important market for the group, the CEO of Gruppo AXA MPS, Frederic de Courtois, told Reuters in October.

The merger of Unipol and Fondiaria will create Italy's No. 2 insurer.

Cimbri said the assets would be sold before the end of next year.

Italy's antitrust regulator has called on Unipol to sell portfolio assets worth 1.7 billion euros ($2.16 billion) so as not to exceed a 30 percent threshold in various domestic insurance segments.

Fondiaria is Italy's leading motor insurer. Combining it with Unipol would create a company with about 37 percent of this segment and 32 percent of the non-life insurance market.

In October Unipol said it had filed an appeal with an Italian court seeking a review of regulatory requirements it considered too penalising.

Unipol agreed last January to rescue Fondiaria in a complex deal, brokered by top investment house Mediobanca (MDBI.MI), that will create a group to compete with Italy's No. 1 insurer, Assicurazioni Generali (GASI.MI).

The antitrust regulator has called on the new group to sell stakes it has in both Generali and Mediobanca.

Cimbri told analysts a stake in Generali will be sold by the end of this year while a 3.8 percent stake in Mediobanca will be disposed of in 2013.

Unipol has already taken control of Fondiaria by taking a controlling stake in holding company Premafin PRAI.MI following a series of capital increases designed to strengthen undercapitalized balance sheets.

Cimbri said he expected the merger with Fondiaria to be completed at the beginning of July 2013.

Earlier on Wednesday Unipol said the solvency margin of the combined group at the end of September was 1.6 times regulatory requirements.

(Reporting By Stephen Jewkes; editing by John Wallace)

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